Mona Voelkel

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Marvelous Morphemes!

A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in a word. For example, grandfather is built with two morphemes: “grand” and “father.” What has been completely fascinating is how introducing students to the concept of morphemes can help spelling make sense.

There are three types of morphological operations:

Compounding: Two or more morphemes combine to create a word; grandfather

Inflection: Modification of grammatical aspects of the word: number, gender, tense, etc.

cowsjumped, jumping. 

Derivation: Generate new words by changing the meaning of an existing word by adding a prefix or a suffix; unhappy, warmly.

As students investigate complex words using a Structured Word Inquiry approach(Bowers & Kirby, 2010), it is helpful to determine the meaning of the base and discuss how the affixes impact meaning.

For example, as students encounter past tense or plurals, it may be helpful to chart the variety of ways these morphemes can be represented.

What do you think? Feel free to email me at with any questions or comments.


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